Leon Trotzky

On World Politics

(5 September 1922)

Source: International Press Correspondence, Vol. 2 No. 76, 5 September 1922, pp. 565–566.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Trotsky Internet Archive.
Copyleft: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org) 2019. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0.

The following is a summary of the Pravda’s report of Comrade Trotzky’s answer to a number of questions put to him either verbally or in writing by various foreign correspondents in Moscow.

The World Revolution

To the question of the correspondent of the Giornale d’Italia, whether he believed in the imminent outbreak of the world revolution, Comrade Trotzky replied as follows:–

I hope to be able to answer this great and complicated question in the course of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International. Here I will merely mention one thing. It goes without saying that I believe the socialist revolution to be inevitable. Its date and its form, however, depend to a large extent the attitude of the ruling classes and their governments. Throughout the last year the European governments have unwittingly done their utmost to accelerate the outbreak of the revolution and to intensify its vigor. The world situation can in a schematic manner be summarized thus: the recent imperialist war was proof of the utter impotence of capitalism to develop mankind any further, while at the critical hour the working class has shown itself incapable of taking over the heritage of the bourgeoisie.

Capitalism is already impotent while the working class not yet competent, – that is the outstanding feature of our epoch. After the peace of Versailles, the reformist-pacifist wing of the bourgeoisie tried to bring about, by means of an agreement between the various nations and classes, a radical change of the situation in Europe. Genoa represented the greatest of these attempts, everyone of which ended in failure, however, with the imperialist wing continuing in control. The latter took it for granted that because the revolution did not materialize immediately after the war, it would be postponed indefinitely. This belief explains their savage and irreconcilable attitude both in the Russian question and in the reparations policy. But it is just this attitude and its immediate effects which by bringing about one catastrophic situation after the other, accelerates the revolutionary process in the working class.

The question as to whether the failures of the Genoa and the Hague conferences will not compel the Soviet Government either to retreat still farther to the right or return to the principles of pure Communism, I must answer in the negative. Genoa and the Hague have overwhelmingly demonstrated the impotence of both bourgeois pacifism and reformism, and are in that respect of great pedagogical value for home politics in Europe. Their failure, however, cannot influence our economic policy.

Two weighty considerations were responsible for the adoption of the new economic policy: firstly, it was essential that stable connections be established between the state industry and the peasantry, and secondly, that the forms and methods of capitalism be used for developing government industry itself.. As these two reasons are of a lasting character, we have neither the intention nor the possibility of abandoning the new economic policy.

I cannot, on the other hand, see why we should march to the right in order to gain the sympathies of capitalism. Needless to say, the capitalist world would hail with delight our renunciation of Socialism for capitalism. But the condition of capitalism cannot in the least induce us to revise our program.


The correspondent of the New York World inquired what proposition Russia could make regarding disarmament, or at least, restrictions of armaments.

Comrade Trotzky’s reply was as follows: Our delegation in Genoa held in readiness a number of carefully defined schemes drawn up in the spirit of uncompromising pacifism. We were willing to agree either to a complete demobilization of all armies or to their reduction to a minimum. Regarding disarmament, we would have supported all propositions eliminating all possibility of an armed attack by or against any country. Even now, we are always ready to accept as a basis for negotiations, every proposition in either of those directions. It would serve no practical purpose to dwell here in detail on the merits of the various pacifistic systems. The difficulties lie not in the Elan or in its realization, but only in the political good will. Capitalist Europe, as it emerged from the inferno of Versailles, is incompatible with disarmament, which present-day Europe neither wants nor can be expected to want. This was proved beyond a vestige of doubt in Genoa, where our antagonists, blandly refused to accept the disarmament question on the agenda.

To the inquiry of the correspondent of the United Press of America, as to how large an army Soviet Russia needed under existing conditions, Comrade Trotzky answered as follows:–

We have reduced our standing army from 5,300,000 to 800,000 men. A further reduction is not possible without a radical change of the international situation preceding it The refusal of our neighbors to agree to our proposition of a disarmament conference naturally does not facilitate the solution of this problem.

Russia’s Economic Forces

Whether we can pull through without large credits from abroad? Most decidedly so! I am convinced that a people of 150 millions will not perish even if it cannot get credits from abroad. Needless to say, however, that a continuation of the present economic and political blockade will retard Russia’s development. Forge ahead we shall, nevertheless. The gigantic productive forces of a people shaken to its very foundations by the revolution, are at present regrouping themselves and crystallizing. And they will successfully carry out their tasks.

Genoa and the Hague

To the question of the correspondent of the International News Service, Comrade Trotzky replied as follows:

I would rather put than answer questions regarding Genoa and the Hague, for I must confess, I do not know to this day, why these conferences were really convened. The Genoa Conference was designated by Lloyd George as the “greatest event of its kind”. There were actually 40 states represented. But for what purpose, I fail to understand. Were the promoters of this conference really laboring under the delusion that Soviet Russia, overawed by the pomp of the conference, would accept obligations which it refused to accept before? It is difficult to believe that grown-up men could entertain such childish notions about Soviet Russia and its policy.

It is, I hear, true that professional parliamentarians and diplomats, because they value highly the black and white magic of diplomatic oratory, are inclined to ascribe a mystic Power to “negotiations” and “conferences”. Now, one cannot deny that the Soviet diplomats are human after all, and for this reason can appreciate everything human, including the advantages of fine rhetoric. But we are above all, realists, and the Soviet Republic is a real fact, and the program of the Communist Partv likewise. The underlying principle of this program was, is, ana, with the kind permission of all parliamentarian and diplomatic magicians will continue to be, the fundamental principle of the Soviet policy. After the failure in Genoa, followed the Hague. Why? Was this conference called to camouflage the object failure of the “greatest congress in history?” Or were there some politicans who believed that the same Soviet representatives who in Genoa had “tenaciously clung to their principles” would capitulate before the ultimatum of capitalism at the Hague? Such a policy would indicate complete failure to grasp the essence of things. The Hague did nothing to soften the fall at Genoa; on the contrary, it accentuated it, though no through any fault of our own.

We Shall Work and Wait

You ask me, “what are your intentions now that Genoa and the Hague have suffered shipwreck?” We shall work and wait. Europe and the whole world are no whit less dependent on Russia than is Russia on Europe. The lust for adventure on the part of a few statesmen, will necessitate new sacrifices and fresh misery, but the economic needs which cannot be denied will force a way for themselves. If these statesmen refuse to recognize us, others will replace them and do so.

The most stupid demand, was that for the return to the foreign capitalists of their former property. The October Revolution was the political victory of labor over capitalism. The fruits of this victory were the wealth created by the working class and amassed by the capitalists to whom only a successful counter-revolution (the victory of capitalism over labor) can return this wealth. This our antagonists have repeatedly tried to do. Now these crafty heads fondly believe that they can accomplish by juridical and diplomatic arguments what military intervention failed to bring about – the overthrow of the workers’ revolution.

Our railways, factories and the soil belong to the state, and although many may not like this, it remains a fact none the less.

This year has witnessed an important change for the better in agriculture. We shall not only be able to supply the industry with food, but also start again exporting grain, if only on a moderate scale. 1923 will be even more favorable than this year. Any corresponding influx of foreign capital would, of course, accelerate this process. But even it that fails to materialize, we shall consolidate our economy.

The favorable development of Soviet Russia’s economic life means on the one hand, an increase in wealth for the workers’ state, and on the other, an increase of capitalist relations within the country. But the economic system, the economic control of free trade remains in the hands of the state which retains as its property the most important parts of the production apparatus, and which has a monopoly on foreign trade. The foreign capitalists and their governments cannot get around these facts.

And again – Disarmament

One and a half years ago, we still had 16 classes under mobilization; today we have only one.

In Genoa, we proposed general disarmament. Europe even declined to discuss this question. Then we submitted the same proposal to our neighbors; with the same result. For these reasons we are still compelled to maintain the reduced army of 800,000 men. We are ready to demobilize this army and even liquidate our very successful military schools – if our neighbors adopt our disarmament program. If the United States Government were to take the initiative in this respect, we should support it to the full extent of our strength.

This is also my answer to the question as io whether we expect any military intervention on the part of France, Roumania or Poland. We think there is no immediate danger and have accordingly reduced our standing army to so great an extent. There is, however, always the possibility of such danger, compelling us to improve continually both the size of our army and its technique.

The S.R. Trial

The trial of the Social Revolutionaries, on which you wish to hear my opinion, sounded the political death knell for that party in this country. Our petty bourgeoisie and our would-be democracy were but the agency of foreign governments. Utilizing this occasion, the bourgeois and “Socialist” press abroad launched a savage campaign of calumny against the Soviet Republic, and systematically deluded its readers as to the real facts of the trial, whose crushing revelations were almost entirely withheld from European and American readers. The lies fade, however, but the facts remain.

The indignation at the decree of the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, regarding those S.R.’s sentenced to death, should not be taken for more than it is worth. The S.R. “Party” has reserved for itself the “right” to commit terroristic acts on members of the Soviet Government whenever it happens to disagree with the policy of the latter. One must therefore accord us permission to reserve for ourselves the right to shoot the leaders of the S.R. “Party” whenever the latter refuse to submit to the present regime in Russia. Our Party is fully conscious of the fact that it is executing a great historical mission, and, no less than five years ago, it refuses to yield on the question of revolutionary power.

Preventive Humanity

You ask on what grounds we justify the deportation from Russia of elements hostile to the Soviets and whether this could be interpreted as meaning that we fear them more within than outside the country.

The answer is quite simple. You have witnessed the trial against the S.R.’s whom the court has sentenced to death. The majority of your press has launched a desperate campaign against us on account of our “cruelty”. If after the October Revolution we had forbidden the S.R’s the country, we should have saved you this indignation.

The elements deported by us, although they have no political significance, would become potential weapons in the hands of our possible enemies. In the case of fresh military complications all these elements would prove themselves military and political agents of our enemy, compelling us to court-martial them under our military law. For reasons of consideration, therefore, we prefer to deport them while there is yet peace, and trust that you recognize and defend before public opinion, these, our humanitarian efforts.

As to America

I should myself like to have an answer to the question, how long American capital will hold aloof from Russian trade.

American capital is in an incomparably better situation than European capital. The Americans are empiricists; they wish to see everything with their own eyes.

The A.R.A. while doing tremendous work for Russia’s famine stricken, was at the same time the eye of America’s ruling class in the heart of Russia. America was in a better position than any other country to see us as we really are. There is nothing left for us but to wait till the public opinion of the American ruling class has sifted the material collected and drawn the logical conclusions therefrom.

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